Group President, Group Managing Director & Editor In Chief: Dr.Shelly Ahmed

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

'Goa Tourism Targeting Beach Shacks': Father Fernandes

The social wing of the influential Roman Catholic Church in Goa has accused the state government of corporatising tourism spaces like beach shacks and taxi services while pushing resident entrepreneurs out of business.

Beach shacks, the temporary thatched eateries, are licenced annually by the tourism ministry. They are synonymous with Goa's beaches and enormously popular with the hundreds of thousands of tourists visiting the state every year.

Father Maverick Fernandes, of tourism watchdog NGO Centre for Responsible Tourism (CRT) under the Church's aegis, said the recent demolition of shacks at the Utorda-Majorda beach belt, 40 km from Panaji, was aimed "to benefit five-star resorts". 

The tourism ministry, however, rejected the insinuation, saying action was taken in accordance with law.

"What is happening in the name of tourism is corporatision of tourism-related services. First they tried to take over the tourist taxi businesses by getting big companies to run taxi services, now it is beach shacks," Fernandes told INNLIVE. 

The shacks have been the hub of food, drink, music and a significant value-addition to beach tourism for decades, although several anti-narcotics raids recently have yielded drugs and other contraband substances in some beach shacks.

Over half a million tourists in Goa are Europeans, mainly from Russia and Britain. 

Last month, tourism ministry employees pulled down several beach shacks and destroyed beach beds without prior notice, Fernandes alleged.

"In some cases the shacks were pulled down when there were guests having breakfast. Is this how the government is trying to promote tourism?" Fernandes asked after nearly a dozens shacks were pulled down in the Utorda-Majorda beach belt and the popular Candolim beach, 20 km from Panaji.

The statement came even as the debate in Goa over big ticket corporatisation of the cash-rich tourism sector continues.

Tourism officials, however, say that the demolitions and action against illegal beach beds was in line with the law of the land and the allegations were unwarranted.

"The Department of Tourism receives over three to four complaints a day from the IRB (India Reserve Battalion) posted along the North Goa beach belt and from South Goa coastal belt," Tourism director Ameya Abhyankar said. 

These related to "growing number of illegally erected beach shacks and unauthorised deck beds, umbrellas, huts and other material being laid out by shack operators", he added.  

Stating that the demolished shacks were illegal, the official said the action against beach beds was in sync with the Goa Beach Shack policy... "not more than 10 pairs are permitted for shacks on public beaches", Abhyankar said.
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